General manager Dale Tallon and coach Kevin Dineen spoke of how having Viola willing to spend money on the Panthers will make their jobs a little easier. Florida’s management team is expected to remain in place, at least for now. Dineen and the rest of his coaching staff are signed through the end of this season.
"It’s a great day for us,’’ Dineen said. "[Viola] was able to go in and talk to our players and I think he made an immediate impact. It’s a real positive. It’s a new day and there’s a lot of excitement around the franchise.’’
The effects of the new ownership have already been felt. On Thursday, the Panthers signed goalie Tim Thomas to a one-year deal with a base salary of $2.5 million after not spending much money during the summer when the team was up for sale. Florida is also expected to sign Brad Boyes and Tom Gilbert to new contracts.
Viola said Friday that he was committed to giving the Panthers “the resources needed to win the Stanley Cup,” which brought a smile to Tallon’s face.
“I believe in what he believes in,” said Tallon, the architect of Chicago’s 2010 championship team.
"He’s committed to putting a winning team out there on the ice. That’s all I can ask for. We’re going to get terrific commitment from him and that’s exciting. The fact I can go to them and say ’this is what we need, what are your thoughts?’ is important. That’s the support we need to fix whatever we need fixed.’’
The Panthers were previously controlled by Cliff Viner and a multitude of minor partners, including local heavyweights H. Wayne Huizenga, Alan Cohen, Mike Maroone and Jordan Zimmerman. They were all bought out by Viola. Viola owns a majority of the franchise now, with only longtime business partner Douglas Cifu joining him. Cifu is the new vice chairman and alternate governor of the Panthers.
"He has an aura about him,’’ said Thomas, who joined a handful of teammates at Friday’s press conference. "He breeds confidence. He’s a leader and I’m very happy to be coming into the organization as he is. It’s awesome. It’s one of the things I’m excited about. I’m excited about the whole direction of what’s going on around here.’’
Huizenga was awarded the expansion team on Dec. 10, 1992, for $50 million. The team, which played at Miami Arena from 1993 to ’98, has changed hands a few times, with Huizenga holding onto a small piece of the team throughout. Huizenga, along with the rest of Florida’s ownership team, was bought out by Viola.